One of Your Employees is becoming a Mum or Dad – Don’t Lose Sleep over it

child and parent

You’ve heard the great news that one of your employees is going to become a mum/dad but while you were congratulating them and jostling them about the extra responsibilities – rest-less nights and dealing with baby sick, you realise that as their employer you will most likely have extra responsibilities too!

If this is either the first of your employees to adopt/gain a child whilst working for you, or if it has been a while since the last arrival of a child for your company then it is good practice to read up on the current legislation.

There are several different kinds of parental leave and pay to consider in the current legislation that gives (prospective) parents the right to different amounts of time off and different rates of pay if they qualify:

  • ‘Maternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Ordinary Paternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Adoption’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Additional Paternity’ Leave and Pay;
  • ‘Parental’ Leave

Parents can also apply for flexible working and take ‘time off for dependants’ to deal with unforeseen circumstances and emergencies which come under separate legislation.

To ensure you are ready for your employee to become a parent (or have another child) you should know the answers to the following questions:

Laws and Legislation:

  • What type of leave and pay does your employee qualify for?
    • How long do they have the right to have off and when
    • How much do they have the right to be paid
    • Who pays for their time off and how
    • What details do you have to keep and how long for

Your Company:

  • Do your company HR policies for these circumstances work within the current legislation
  • Do you have sufficient, able staff to cover for the possible time off

Employee (Parent to be) Information:

  • When is the expected birth/adoption date
  • When do they intend to take their leave (where prior notification is appropriate)

For more information check out our help-sheet collection: Leave for Employee-Parents – covering pay, eligibility, notification rules and dates for maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave and more!

Winter – Still Causing Seasonal Shifts in Employee Absence – Can Human Resources Help?

winter traffic

We’ve come a long way since the seasonal changes in work patterns of the ‘olden days’ where the difference in hours of light and the drawing in of the coldest and wettest parts of the years reduced man hours dramatically. However, the man hours of many companies are still falling foul of winter mischief where the Human Resources department are not quite doing everything they can to combat this winter chaos.

If it isn’t the snow or heavy rain causing havoc, it’s the winter vomiting bug, winter depression or general heightened levels of colds and flu stealing our employees from work!  This also has a further knock on effect increasing employee stress (decreasing their productivity, and lowering their immunity, increasing the chance of them becoming sick as well), as they try to cover the extra work in an environment infested with the beginnings and tail ends of colds and flu.

But what can Human Resources do about the snow, rain and sickness? – Although they may perform miracles, Human Resources are unfortunately unlikely to have godlike powers and so cannot simply move the snow and rain around the paths to your company and make your employees immune to sickness!

However, what Human Resources can do, is change the way absence is dealt with; the following items may be worthwhile considering, if not already implemented, to improve your company’s man hours over winter:

  • Proactively encourage healthy living, and a positive working environment, especially during winter to help keep sickness and stress to a minimum.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and prepare ahead of time for weather hazards like snow and heavy rain. Can you help employees be able to safely make the journey into work? For the employees most likely to be affected, can you have plans in advance, for covering their work load?
  • Ensure that the workspace is clean and dry to reduce the chance of bacteria build up from winter bugs, and ensure a comfortable temperature for working conditions, or provide appropriate PPE to keep your employees warm and dry, and therefore less likely to catch a cold.
  •  Encourage employees to stay home if they are unwell with something that may be passed to other members of staff, such as colds, flu, sickness and diarrhoea, to reduce the amount of extra days that are lost with several employees catching a bug from just one member of staff ‘braving’ an illness and bringing it to work with them.
  • Where possible setup the ability for employees to work remotely (or to complete the work at a different date/time in lieu) in the case of snow days or days off ill where they are still capable of working, just not in a fit state to be at work. This remote work could include migration of tasks from another department that can more easily be done remotely. This would mean that the man hours wouldn’t necessarily need to be lost, just moved around to free up someone else to help manage the tasks usually performed by the missing employee.
  • Finally, but not least important, ensure your absence and return to work policies are clear and as effective as possible. Keep up to date with current legislation and advances in this area and make sure that your actions against absence are applied consistently and fairly – Check out our factsheet for more information on HR Policy: Dealing with Employee Absence and Return to Work Meetings

HR Policy (or lack of) still cripples Top Management Gender diversity!


  • Unfair treatment of employees returning from maternity leave
  • Inflexible working hours not allowing for child-minding responsibilities
  • Unequal pay and bonuses for equal work performance across genders

These age old sex discrimination issues and more are still not being dealt with by HR policies. This is crippling UK businesses in their ability to feed high achieving female employees up the management pipe-line, leading to poor gender diversity in the top management positions.

Studies show that gender diversity in top management and board positions is good for business (i.e. McKinsey 2007: Women Matter) and also, probably not so surprisingly that men and women generally have complementary management qualities (i.e. Talent Innovations 2012). This combination of information makes it crucial for companies to ensure their top management includes a good split between males and females.

However, many top UK companies are not setting a good example for our smaller and younger businesses. Many are still working with the attitude of ‘more of the same’ and continuing the traditions of the ‘male, pale and stale’ for boardrooms and top management alike. On FTSE 100 and 250 boards, only 15% and 9% of seats respectively are held by women, and 11% and 45% of these companies have all male boards! (Women on Boards Report 2012) We are a long way from an equal split of 50% males and females on boards and also still a long way behind the leaders in gender equality at board level, Norway, at over 40% females on boards!

Six in ten university graduates are female in the UK and females are faring better on grades than males. Almost 50% of the UK workforce is female (ONS report 2012) yet the talent being shown at University level is being lost on the way to top management through poor HR or lack of HR policy to tackle the age old discrimination issues.

The largest gender pay gap shown in the ONS figures is occurring after the 30’s, after which age progression to top level management for the best and brightest has usually begun. Are HR Policies attempting to ensure that females can still progress their careers when they need time out to have a baby, or flexible hours to take responsibility caring for a child? Or are companies allowing females to be side lined who ‘choose’ to have a child?

The fact that 80% of part-time workers are female and that the median hourly pay for part-time work is almost 40% lower than that for full-time work (ONS 2012 Hourly-earnings) may put forward the possible conclusion that

  • companies are still not being as flexible as they need to be for females to continue with full-time work alongside family obligations
  • females are being forced into lower paid part-time arrangements for the sake of being better family makers
  •  companies are losing out on female talents and skills!

Check out our fact sheets for more information on why gender diversity in top management is important and how HR policy can help to break down the barriers to female career progression.

‘Christmas’ Work Parties – Disaster waiting to happen?

So you think you have the party planned out; where, who and when… but is that enough? Have you ensured that you are catering for everyone fairly and that health and safety and misconduct issues have been prepared for in advance?

Christmas parties are to celebrate business success for the year and to thank employees for their hard work, aiding employee morale and bringing teams closer together. Therefore, it is important to ensure that everyone is included.

  • Food/Set Meal Plan: Have you considered the different possible dietary needs for employees’ beliefs/religion or medical requirements? (Providing suitable food for vegetarians, nut allergies etc.)
  • Theme, decoration and activities: Is the plan in good taste for everyone? (E.g. visiting a local pub for a ‘booze-up’ may not be suitable if some employees’ religion is against the consumption of alcohol).
  • Timing: Are all employees able to come? (Maybe consider employees’ family responsibilities and when they are expected in work).

Health and Safety responsibility:

The party needs to be remembered for the right reason; that awesome time out with the team, not the time that employee was involved in an accident, so health and safety is paramount.

  • Have you made sure that all employees (and any invited significant others) remember to drink in moderation so everyone can enjoy the night and not have the health and safety of themselves and others jeopardised.
  • Have you considered pre-booking a bus/taxi service to and from the venue to ensure the safety of the employees and help to avoid the possibility of any post-celebration drunk driving.

Employee Conduct & Brand Image:

Damage control is required to ensure that company image is protected and that employees conduct themselves appropriately at the party.

  • A dress code may be of use to encourage a greater team feeling for the celebrations and to ensure that clothing choices are not offensive.
  • Have you made sure all employees (and any invited significant others) know what is expected of their behaviour (and that poor behaviour may lead to disciplinary action) to ensure that they remember to act responsibly whilst partying. Make sure a harassment claim isn’t something that needs to be dealt with after all the fun.

Make the most of your work Christmas party and ensure it is a morale booster to bring the whole team closer together rather than a black mark and a waste of the company money… Do the extra preparation now, and enjoy the extra free morale boost of the holiday season!

Related Link

Human Resources Aid: Example pre-party memo, for all employees, to help cover necessary information (and behaviour warnings)

Blog: ‘Christmas’ Work Parties – Disaster waiting to happen?
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Health and Safety Policy: Just a load of conkers!!

“School “conkers” health and safety fears – David Woodland’s full report on a conker tournament being held at a Bristol school, despite general safety concerns about the tradition.” – ITV, Oct)
“Christmas lights out for the first time in 20 years – Christmas lights could be banned from one British high street for the first time in 20 years over health and safety fears, as residents accused the authorities of killing their festive spirit.” – Daily Telegraph, Nov)

Bus driver orders everyone off after someone spills their coffee – Health and Safety madness – The Sun, Mar. Olympics sandcastle demolished over health and safety fears – The Guardian, Apr. Flower Potty:Church officials ban plants from graveyards over health and safety fears – The Mirror, Sept. Airline cabin crew told cold passenger they could not give her a blanket because of health and safety reasons… but they would sell her one for £5 – The Mail, Aug. Christmas lights out for the first time in 20 years over health and safety fears – Daily Telegraph, Nov.

In the news there is continuing complaints about applied Health and Safety being “over the top” and saying that Health and Safety has “gone mad”, restricting and spoiling the spirit of activities. Among many other incorrectly labelled rules, Health and Safety is being reported as the reason. Stopping workers from decorating their workspace during celebrations or requiring workers to use PPE or restricted types of clothing even in low risk environments – It is not surprising that health and safety is being portrayed with a killjoy stigma that could lead to people outright ignoring health and safety policies meant to save lives!

Since April this year HSE has been working to bust some of the myths surrounding Health and Safety. In many cases it was found that where health and safety was being misused as the reason for a ruling, companies were either following misinformation or hiding another underlying reason that they wished not to disclose. Typical reasons include avoiding the prospect of civil liability or insurance alterations, a matter of hygiene or creating the right company image or a simple inability or reluctance for the company to accommodate the request.

As health and safety is about protection from serious injury, mistakenly following another’s health and safety policy blunder or covering up another reason for a decision to avoid questioning is likely to get noticed. Whoever notices it may not be entirely sure of their convictions but they are still likely to be frustrated and annoyed if it is not clear why a ‘health and safety’ precaution has to be taken.

Health & Safety is about reducing the risks to workers and saving lives – putting in the policies that are needed to provide a safe working environment.

Statistics brought out at the end of October by HSE show an improvement of Health & Safety at work in the UK in some key areas with slightly less work related ill-health and injuries reported over the last year (Apr 2011-Mar 2012) than the previous year and the five year average – see some of the figures below.

Figures from HSE released end of October: Major Injury - Eg. Amputation, fractures, burns - 2011-12: 22,433, 2010-11: 24,944, 5 years Av.: 27,170. Serious Injury - Eg. Other injuries requiring four or more days off work- 2011-12: 88,731, 2010-11: 91,742, 5 years Av.: 103,627. Long-Term Illness - Eg. Illness caused or made worse by work - 2011-12: Est. 1.1mil (452,000 new), 2010-11: 1.2mil (554,000 new), 5 years Av.: 1.25mil. Fatal Injury (Death) - 2011-12: 173, 2010-11: 175, 5 years Av.: 196.

Chair of HSE, Judith Hackitt said: “Britain has earned the reputation of being one of the safest places in Europe to work, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.” As she poignantly continues: “We need to ensure that we all focus on managing the real risks which lead to serious workplace harm.”

Currently the quality of health and safety policies implemented appears to be lacking and the messages meant to protect human life and quality of life may start being lost among a wash of incorrectly ‘Health and Safety’-labelled requirements.

When making health and safety policies it should be about quality not quantity: Not labelling every possible health and safety risk or using the health and safety label to reinforce other decisions but making sure that suitable precautions are taken against real risks with serious consequences all the time.

Check out our Health and Safety Policy Blunder Busting Factsheet for help on making your health and safety policy quality over quantity; avoiding health and safety policy myths and blunders, and making sure your Health and Safety policy saves lives instead of just annoying people!

Change Management: HR Policy overcoming the emotional hurdles to success?

Change Management Image - Hurdles to Success

What is the point of change management? You see a way you can improve the company services/products/profits, and you make the change, simple? Or is it?

Change can have negative emotional repercussions, on both employees and customers, no matter how well intended the changes are. This is why it is important for HR policy to be involved with change, and why change needs to be managed carefully.

For employees, they may have felt comfortable with the services or products they had the ability to provide, with the knowledge and processes they were used to following. Now they have to learn new knowledge and/or processes, requiring more effort to reach the same level of competency at their given tasks as they were capable of previously. Employees need to be able to see that the extra effort they are making for the changes is worth it for them. To share in the vision that the changes are working towards improvement in their company, boosting pride in their work and their trust in the ability of management, rather than reducing their morale and productivity.

For customers, they may be a one off shopper, or one that has been using your company for years, as a reliable source for a service or product they require: If they are uninformed about the changes being made, and why, any inevitable delays or reduced service or product quality during the transition phase would be unexpected and intolerable, causing customers to be frustrated and annoyed. Customers would only see the negative impacts on their services/products as a change towards company incompetence, and would most certainly cause customers to rethink if they would continue using your company, or if they would forward this negativity to other potential customers!

Change management involves effective planning and communication; both before and after changes are implemented, to not only reduce the negative emotional hurdles described above but to overwrite the negative thoughts with positive thoughts towards the change and the company itself. Change management assesses the impacts against the positive gains of a change and then works to (as the song goes) ‘accentuate the positives’ and ‘eliminate the negatives’.

In this case accentuating the positives means building the case for the change, why it needs to be done, what the vision for the future is, and how the change will improve the company. The important part is how you manage that change for the good of all involved.

Eliminating the negatives is probably the more obvious task. It involves ensuring that all possible required resources (people, company ‘systems’, communication services, time/timing and training/education etc.) for a smooth transition are available, making sure any change laws are abided by and ensuring everyone knows how the change will work, where and when. It is important to remember to inform not only employees what is to be expected but suppliers and customers, where the changes may affect their dealings with you. This way any expected negative effects can be minimised, and any unavoidable negative effects can have plans in place to work around problems before they occur, minimising any annoyance and frustration during the transition.

Change is an important factor in any business – make yours a positive experience. Check out our factsheet: HR Policy: Change Management Check List for more detail on making the most of your company changes and overcoming the emotional hurdles to success, or contact Amanda for HR Consulting on the subject of change management at

Combating Company Discrimination: Duty of Care or Potential for Business Improvement?

discrimination highlight

By law businesses have to watch their step with their policies and processes to ensure they are not discriminating against anyone due to a protected characteristic (treating less favourably, unless there is a legitimate aim with no other reasonable action to reach it); actual or perceived – age, race, religion, belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment or sexual orientation, or pregnancy, maternity, marriage or civil partnership.

It may be easy to list a good chunk of extra costs in time and money that may be required to ensure that your company policies do not discriminate against anyone due to a protected characteristic:

  • Arranging broader accessibility to recruitment advertising
  • Providing alternative fair application and interviewing methods
  • Allowing for flexible working hours, differing holiday days and extra sick leave
  • Being ready and able to provide reasonable physical alterations to the workplace and equipment
  • Dealing with possible collaboration barriers stemming from communication difficulties or conflict from intolerance of different perspectives

Experiments conclude that teams with individuals of differing, complementary skills are more productive due to knowledge spill-over and organisation of tasks to the more suitable individuals to speed up completion. However, socially diverse teams are less productive due to poor external social connection and collaboration barriers.

However, I have not written this article just to spread doom and gloom about the duty of care required to combat discrimination in company policy and promote diversity and equal opportunities at work! So, time for the good news.

Employee diversity is attractive to a broader market through a more socially diverse company face, and effective communication skills and understanding of the needs of a wider community. Employee diversity also improves team problem solving and decision making abilities through a more extensive field of interests, (and therefore) skills, knowledge and viewpoints.

Promoting equal opportunities at work creates a fairer environment encouraging higher levels of motivation from employees that may otherwise feel they either have little chance of progressing, or are certain to progress without good performance due to discrimination. A fairer, non-discriminatory working environment also encourages a happier workforce as employees has a greater feeling of well-being at work.

The more switched on companies actively work policies to improve employee communication and integration to lessen the negative effects on base productivity. This combined with doing more than their duty to promote diversity and equal opportunities allows them to reap the high benefits from a diverse workforce of improved company outreach and performance, leading ultimately to improved brand value and productivity.

Check out our factsheet to find out more about Combating Protected Characteristic Discrimination in Employment Policy

Social Networking and Social Media: What does it mean for business?

social networking; collaboration, communication, fun, friendship and business or addiction, scams, harrasment, waste of time, and identity theft

– Facebook – YouTube – Twitter – Linked In – Google+ – Flikr – Digg –

Social networking and social media poses both threats to business and opportunities for improvement. Just how much social networking and social media affects your company and whether it has an overall positive or negative impact appears to be entirely in our hands, and how we deal with the possible opportunities and impacts presented?

Negative Impacts

Development of social media and social networking has put more games, gossip and friends at the click of an employee’s mouse button, further increasing company fears of employees wasting time, procrastinating during paid hours. Either turning a blind-eye to the skiving, and letting other employees pick up the slack, or overly restricting the use of social media and social networking can lead to resentment from employees and lowered morale. Judging just what is the appropriate actions to take can sometimes be difficult.

Procrastination is not the only issue to deal with, social media and social networking opens a lot of new challenges for management. Employees may need reminding that if they are watching social media to break up their work day, they still require breaks away from their computers for health and safety reasons. Some employees may also find it difficult understanding what behaviour is acceptable on social media and social networking, and need prompting to avoid acts of discrimination and bullying. Finally, as many viruses and malware are spread through social media and social networking, greater security may also need to be considered to protect against them and their harmful effects.

Positive Opportunities

Social networking tools provide free and quick communication avenues for exchanging messages with employees worldwide, providing a backdrop for simpler, more flexible collaboration and co-operation. Email, tweeting, instant messaging and blogging or podcasts and many other options are now available for ensuring you can keep your employees and customers up to date and in the loop wherever they are. Similarly social networking can be used to keep your company up to date with industry information, conferences and the latest innovations through linking with other professionals in your field.

With 80% of UK houses receiving internet and 2/3 of all adults in the UK using Facebook – just one of the many social networking platforms (OFCOM) social media and social networking is increasingly being used as businesses’ ‘marketing face’, to directly communicate with a large portion of potential employees and customers. This method largely cuts out the middle men (advertising and recruitment agencies) reducing time and money spent on marketing strategies.

Encouraging social networking connections to your company enables current, past, and future employees and customers to share experiences and feel a more personal (and therefore stronger) link with the company brand, this setup also serves as a strong communication line from the company to share useful branding messages with the public such as notification of company awards, special recognition received or any other positive messages.

Read in more depth about this on our social networking and social media factsheet

Have your say on what you think social media and social networking means to business… Do you think it is something that needs protecting against, something to embrace, or a bit of both?

Improving Employee Morale: Do your employees know you value them?

employee reward pen

Just paying an employee for their work is not enough to ensure they continually give 100% commitment. If employees feel under-valued then employee morale will be lowered. Low employee morale causes slower, poorer quality productivity, more absence days and loss of experience, skills and knowledge if employees decide to leave for a job that makes them happier. Most companies know their employees are valuable but many don’t successfully show it.

Organising budget staff parties, ‘paper plate’ awards and pep-talks works on fixing the symptomatic unhappiness not the causes of low employee morale. These can temporarily boost morale for a few employees but can also cause extra issues too. Staff parties can cause friction with staff that would rather not spend free time with work colleagues, or who would prefer the money used to pay for bills. ‘Paper-plate’ awards; company logo pens, certificates and other generic prizes for overtime, exemplary work etc. back fire by showing little understanding of the real value of your employees. ‘Thanks for making the company thousands of pounds! To show our appreciation, here’s a pen!’

Successfully dealing with low employee morale is not ‘fixing employee unhappiness’, it’s about treating your employees in a way that shows you know how valuable they are: Valuing your employees for their skills, knowledge and expertise, working to use your employees full potential and showing appreciation with rewards as valuable to the employees as their work is to your company. Only by tackling the underlying issues that make employees feel under-valued can you ensure that low employee morale is turned around for all employees and for good.

  • Make your workplace a positive, enjoyable place to be
  • Give your employees job satisfaction and pride in their work
  • Show your employees ‘real’ appreciation for good work with rewards of value to them
  • Empower your employees by really listening to their ideas and acting on them
  • Help your employees reach their full potential by giving them opportunities to broaden and strengthen their knowledge and experience with ongoing training

All these steps work together to ensure your company treats your employees as the valuable assets they are– higher employee morale = more productivity! (and a much nicer atmosphere for everyone to work in).

For more information on ensuring that you are doing your best to keep your employees motivated and productive check out our factsheet: HR: Getting Employee Morale measures right!

HSE to Illuminate the Health & Safety Policy Tightrope!

man on a 'Health & Safety' tightrope

This July HSE published their business plan for 2012-2015. The aims put forward bode well for businesses struggling to walk the Health & Safety tightrope – without falling off or over spending on unnecessary Health and Safety policy action.

Many companies are still getting their Health and Safety policies disastrously wrong and not taking risks seriously enough. Just in July, in the South East, HSE reported five companies prosecuted and penalised for Health and Safety failings. The responsible companies and directors accrued fines and costs totalling £322,609 and no doubt loss of company image as well. The serious Health & Safety negligence under trial had led to a patient fatality, serious injury of three workers and the possibility of multiple fatalities and/or serious injuries. And this is not abnormal for a month for reported prosecutions!

Many companies are putting in place sufficient Health and Safety Policies but are suffering from unnecessary Health and Safety overhead costs slowing the progress of their business growth. As the Association of British Insurers (ABI) pointedly remarked in March, with confusion between Health and Safety fact and myth and fear of heavy penalties for even minor injuries, companies blindly over-compensate for their Health & Safety risks: From annual electric testing of kettles, onerous risk assessments, misinformation about the need for dedicated health and safety consultants and even a ban on the use of bunting at events, there is a risk that prevailing health and safety myths can slow UK businesses down and foster risk aversion.

Help is coming! The new HSE business plan encapsulated the spirit of the last twelve months of government Health and Safety reviews and consultations, and the red tape challenge. Their aims include making company compliance expectations easier to understand and focusing more attention on high impact risks. Hopefully this new focus will lead to more businesses taking risks seriously, and businesses that are uncertain if they are overspending on their health and safety policies can look forward to extra help coming soon!

HSE has already started on their action for clarification of expectations, for example, with the publishing of Maintaining Portable Appliances in Low Risk Environments back in June. Deadlines in the HSE Plan for other useful guidance publications and or important change in regulations that you may wish to make note of include:

  • Sept 2012: guidance to help businesses understand what is ‘reasonably practicable’ for specific activities with ongoing arrangements to ensure guidance is kept up to date.
  • Oct 2012: Revoking a first batch of unnecessary legislative measures
  • Apr 2013: Revoking a further batch of unnecessary legislative measures subject to the appropriate approvals
  • Oct 2013: Following consultation – amending Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) and associated guidance to provide clarity for businesses on how to comply with the requirements
  • Dec 2013: Amending the Health and Safety at Work Act along with any necessary Regulations to exempt from health and safety law those self-employed, whose activities represent no potential risk of harm to others

Useful Links:

Full HSE 2012-2015 Business Plan
Holges Consulting’s quick overview of maintaining portable devices